Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined by, from left, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., smiles as they unveil the GOP's tax overhaul, Nov. 2, 2017.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Leading House Republican: tax cuts made a ‘huge difference’ in midterms

As House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) gets ready to give up his gavel and adjust to life in the congressional minority, he’s still pleased with the tax package he helped write last year. The Washington Examiner noted:

On Tuesday, Brady also claimed that the tax code rewrite helped Republicans in the midterm elections, despite the losses suffered by the party and many of the lawmakers who helped write the bill.

“Can you imagine the outcome if we didn’t have a booming economy?” Brady asked. “It made a huge difference across this country and I think was key in a number of our Republican races.”

The Texas congressman added that he believes House Republicans exceeded expectations in this year’s midterm elections.

That last point is especially difficult to take seriously. In the days leading up to Election Day, the chatter in GOP circles was that the party might be able to eke out a narrow House majority. As recently as Nov. 3, Vice President Mike Pence declared, “I think we’re going to hold our Republican majority in the House of Representatives.”

Where exactly were those intra-party expectations about Republicans suffering their largest losses since the Watergate era?

But even putting this aside, the idea that the GOP’s tax breaks for the wealthy “made a huge difference” for Republicans is an even stranger argument.

We can say with quantifiable certainty that the party’s tax plan was woefully unpopular among voters, prompting Republican officials and candidates to run away from the issue before voters headed to the polls.

Brady’s larger point seems to be that the policy was politically important in less obvious ways: tax breaks boosted the economy, the argument goes, which meant many voters were less eager for change, which in turn boosted Republican incumbents who might’ve otherwise been defeated.

It’s tough thing to prove either way. That said, the economy isn’t much different than it was in 2015 – in fact, job growth is actually slower now than it was three years ago – so the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy served as rocket fuel for the economy is dubious, at best.

The fact that Brady is pushing these talking points isn’t too surprising. After all, it’s not realistic to think one of the key architects of the Republican tax plan would stand before reporters and declare, “I guess we did the wrong thing.”

But if there’s evidence of the tax plan helping the GOP in the midterms, it’s hiding well.